In a justice system outcome as shocking as Jason Wilmert’s depraved behavior, the Kern County, CA court accepted a misdemeanor plea on eating domestic animals, and dropped animal cruelty charges against the man witnessed skinning and decapitating a live cat in his backyard.
You may have seen the story of Jason Wilmert, who was arrested on February 3. The details of the case came out in recent days and the story made international headlines. To recap in brief, Jason Wilmert, of Oildale, California, near Bakersfield, was observed as he stood in his backyard skinning a cat alive before cutting off its head. The neighbor who witnessed the incident reported it to the sheriff’s department. The incident report confirms the neighbor’s story, saying “The deputy then walked to the rear yard of the residence down the driveway and observed what appeared to be the decapitated head of a cat lying on the grass in the back yard … Deputies searched the home and located the carcass of the dead cat.” The cat was laying in the kitchen sink. Officers at the scene told neighbors that they had seen evidence to confirm that Wilmert was eating animals.He was arrested on suspicion of “possessing the carcass of a pet for food.” He was charged with two misdemeanors: using domestic animals for food, and animal abuse.
Neighbors later told the news crews that descended on their town of missing pets and of instances of Wilmert’s peculiar behavior. His frequently mentioned burning sessions in the back yard now have area residents wondering just what he was burning. Bags seen hanging in the yard with what appeared to be sticks in them are now thought to have contained bones.
When Wilmert appeared in Kern County court for a pretrial hearing yesterday he made a plea agreement with the court that settled the case against him. The animal abuse charge was dropped and he pled guilty to possession of domestic animals to be used as food. Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Hadalgo downplayed public reaction to the case by attributing it to people’s fondness for their pets, and said, ““I think, in light of the defendant’s criminal history, and the actions, and this charge, it was a fair resolution.” The judge banned cameras from the courtroom, saying she wanted to protect Wilmert.
Wilmert was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with credit for 30 days, even though he was arrested on February 3. He is out of jail. He also got 3 years of probation, during which time he is banned from owning domestic animals, and he was told to attend counseling at the county mental health department. Old charges against him were also dropped.
Kern County chose to brush aside the fact that they had both eyewitness and physical evidence that Wilmert tormented a living creature by skinning and decapitating it while it was still alive, in broad daylight in his back yard. It is believed that this was just one incidence of a pattern of behavior. Wilmert will not be called to account for the utter depravity of his actions and total lack of compassion for the suffering of living creatures.
We were told by an area resident involved with cat rescue that Wilmert’s neighbors are upset and do not want him returning to their neighborhood. Diane Headly is one neighbor who spoke to a news crew on the record, saying, “It’s sickening. I have my kitty right there. I’ve got my cats that run out. I fear for my animals all over again. It’s just disturbing.” Other neighbors reported being afraid of him in the past, and say they are more fearful now. The danger for animals goes beyond neighborhood pets; Kern county is known to have a serious problem with dumped and abandoned cats and dogs, so someone out to do them harm can easily find helpless strays.
We were very pleased to see Bakersfield Cat People rescue group president Barbara Hays speaking out with the voice of common sense. Barbara says she is horrifed by the case and acknowledged that cats around Wilmert will not be safe, saying, “That sounds good, but it doesn’t happen. There will be cats around this man’s house if he returns to the same neighborhood. He’ll find a way, it’ll happen again.” Barbara also noted to abundance of homeless cats in the area.
Anyone not already familiar with Jason Wilmert is unlikely to recognize him on sight. There are no photos or video of him associated with the case and the widespread coverage it has received.
The video segment covers the case settlement and includes remarks by Barbara Hays and neighbors.